Growing an audience around your product or service is one of the smartest strategies for small businesses. But focusing the lion’s share of your content marketing efforts on the creation of content for your current audience can be a rate limiter for your business. You much create new audience content.
The topic of creating content for your audience came to my mind over the weekend, while listening to a CBS interview with Atlanta rapper Andre 3000, who just released New Blue Sun, his 87-minute solo album composed with a flute. When asked how he thinks his audience, who knows him primarily as a rapper, will receive the new sound, he was blunt yet thoughtful.
“I think audience is important,” he said, “But I don’t think catering to an audience is important at all.”
His candor was refreshing. He’s not making content for his existing audience. He’s making content, first and foremost, for himself. And, being untethered from the desires of his current fans, he’s free to create music that appeals to a new audience.
His words carry a message for brands engaging in content marketing as well—that of, you have more than one audience. Additionally, the one you have isn’t the one you should be catering to exclusively.
The problem with ‘create content for your audience’
“Create content for your audience” is a refrain heard commonly in content marketing circles. The people—many of them seasoned content marketing professionals—sharing this perspective are attempting to prevent you from blindly creating content that, while valuable, won’t be of great benefit to your current audience.
“You must create content for your audience,” they say, “because it ensures that they return to your website, and it helps maintain top-of-mind relevance.”
This seemingly sound advice is, unfortunately, wrong, for at least one of three reasons:
- Few businesses survive by serving only their current audience. Growth is essential.
- The content desired by existing customers is far less valuable that content geared to growing and attracting new audience members.
- A large portion must also be focused on building online affinity and brand signals, including links, reviews, mentions, social shares, traffic, etc.
Sparktoro’s Rand Fishkin made similar points in a blog post several years ago.
“[T]he best content marketing efforts…are those that leverage a customer affinity that a broader group also shares,” he wrote in Don’t Start Your Content Marketing with ‘What Do My Customers Want?’ “Or content that’s crafted specifically to appeal to a wider group. Or, best of all, content that is intentionally targeted to those publications and people most likely to help it spread.”
Rand isn’t saying content aimed at your audience is worthless; rather, he’s making the point that creating content that’s not solely aimed at your current audience will almost certainly yield greater results.
My experience with brands creating new audience content
Hardly a week goes by that I don’t talk to a small business owner or the marketing executive of a midsize brand about why her brand isn’t visitors to their website or their business. In nearly every case, the culprits are the same:
- Problem 1: Creating content for their current audience, which is small
- Problem 2: Neglecting to focus on additional products and services that appeal to customers on the periphery—in their service area but being served by other vendors.
For problem no.1, I recommend doing some research to create a piece of content that’ll be read, shared, talked about and linked to. This could be an in-depth post or video, but most important it would draw the attention of folks outside of their so-called target audience. I value this approach because it helps nudge brands to do something amazing—that is, create the types of content that’s worthwhile and not more of the same drivel.
For problem no. 2, I often have them use the Jobs to Be Done framework to uncover what products or service items they are uniquely qualified to offer and that would drive additional sales in-store or online. A restaurant, for example, might offer weekly specials to increase lunch traffic. (Wednesday half-price burgers, for instance.) They might also court happy hour traffic by moving the times around to find the right fit. (3-6 PM instead of 4-7 PM.)
In each instance, the goal is two-pronged: bring in people who are not regulars and generate buzz online, especially on social media or in private forums, such as food groups, blogs, etc. Each of my clients who’s taken a similar approach has seen significant success.
“I never knew not focusing on my customers could be so beneficial,” said a local coffee shop owner who used my advice—renting out unused space, adding wine and charcuterie to the menu, and hosting book clubs and moms groups—to increase year-over-year sales by 21%.